They are nothing like us. They can kill innocent black people and then hash tag them; let them trend and retweet. Let them march and protest – a placard or fifty blowing in the wind until the arms of sullen youth are tired. When it all settles, they will play together at Superbowl, singing the Star Spangled Banner with heads held high, cadences shared and tears in their eyes. Until the next shooting, they can be America The Brave.
In the background a TV buzzes, a clip from Fox News delivers HD images of a blond toupe’d man promising he can make “Make America great again” I wonder when exactly it was that the greatness left or If indeed, it was ever there.
A well timed remote click over lands me on BBC News, a re-run of a blond, floppy haired man rallying crowds: “Take back control……this Thursday can be our Independence Day”. What? The irony is palpable, forcing me consider the oppressions that ‘greatness’ has relied on in both nations.
Are they nothing like us? Memories flicker a long way back to the flames fanning the national riots of 2011 – calls for revolutions when a young man of mixed race is shot dead in Tottenham. Channel 4 news ‘reporting live’ on Britain’s Summer Of Rage. Britain’s summer of disenfranchised youth reclaiming the streets, for better or for worse.
That was a one off incident. I tell myself, disheartened, feeling a weight of worry for my loved ones here and in the States. I know it wasn’t a one off. Even so for the most part, our police show more restraint. I hope. Our police show more restraint? Though nowhere near as frequent in occurrence as they are over there, recent internet dares have snatched out incidents from under the carpet. Incidents our media has swept away so adeptly. Body count: 509 since 1991, with no prosecutions? Things I have never bothered to find out for myself. Thankfully, we don’t harbour the same small obsession with firearms that some of our counterparts over the Atlantic do. If all the Met Officers conducting stop and searches at a disproportionately high rate on black men were to carry guns, what would happen? I’m not sure.
I remind myself that race relations are a completely different animal in the US than in the UK, if not on numbers and demographic percentages alone. Our histories of prejudice and misconceptions manifest in different ways, sometimes class means more here. I can’t help wondering how much of a similarity there is between our handlings of race relations now – probably more than we are willing to admit. Likely more than we’d permit ourselves to even see.
Another click of the remote. It’s difficult to watch bodies like my own subjected to institutionally accepted yet thoughtless violence. It’s even more difficult to try and draw complete conclusions at the same time
I turn the TV off.